Tiger Woods likely to make weekend at Players

ByBob Harig via ESPN logo
Friday, May 8, 2015

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The fist pump on the final green wasn't to celebrate a winning putt or even one that put him atop the leaderboard at the Players Championship.

Tiger Woods' reaction came because he made a birdie putt that will keep him in the tournament.

That is what passes for success at the moment for Woods, who is playing just his fourth tournament of the year and only his second since February.

"Obviously I need tournament golf," said Woods, whose 1-under-par 71 at TPC Sawgrass on Friday had him on the cut number as afternoon play continued. "My game finally is at a point where I can play tournament golf on a consistent basis. That wasn't the case early in the year. Wasn't very good. But I worked my butt off to change it, and I'm pretty proud of that. To be able to show up at Augusta and do what I did, and now I've just got to keep building from there."

Woods can appear in tournaments on a consistent basis but so far is unable to play the game that way.

He had six birdies and five bogeys during the second round, fluctuating on and off the cut line all day. He is eight shots back of leader Kevin Na. The top 70 players and ties make the 36-hole cut, and Woods was tied for 61st.

"I couldn't capitalize on some of the opportunities to get on a run," he said. "I had my chances to get on these runs, and I just didn't stuff my iron shots in there. I felt like I drove it pretty good today overall, but I just wasn't hitting the ball close enough."

Woods hit 9 of 14 fairways but for the second straight day hit just 10 greens in regulation. That was always a strength during Woods' best years. Two years ago when he won five times, Woods ranked 24th on the PGA Tour in that category. He is outside the top 100 for the tournament.

Four of his birdies came on the par-5s -- another longtime strength -- but his long iron shots were an issue as he appeared to be pulling several shots, which kept him from hitting it close.

"That's something we're going to go work on now and try and get that organized," Woods said. "I worked on it yesterday, got it cleaned up and really played well coming in. Today it was sporadic a little bit, but I had that miss in there and I still need to clean that up."

This is Woods' second start since he took a nine-week break to deal with numerous issues in his game. The worst of those were chipping problems, which have all but been eliminated.

The rest of his game, however, remains a work in progress. Woods shows flashes but is having difficulty maintaining any kind of consistency. For example, he had a stretch Friday where he hit four straight fairways on the back nine only to badly miss at the first hole (his 10th), leading to a bogey.

Earlier in the round, Woods made a couple of sloppy bogeys at the 12th and 13th holes. At the fourth, it was a poor chip from just off the green -- after his tee shot came to rest in a divot -- that led to a bogey.

He followed with a nice 25-footer for birdie at the fifth then lost his drive to the right of the seventh fairway, punching a shot over the green and being left with an awkward downhill shot. Woods had a vintage shot in which he hit behind the ball in a grass bunker and got it to barely trickle onto the green, stopping 10 feet from the hole. But he missed the par putt and was faced with needing a birdie at one of the final two holes to assure a spot on the weekend.

At the eight hole, where Woods hit a horrible tee shot Thursday that landed short of a usually out-of-play hazard and led to a double bogey, he hit his tee shot on the par-3 green and narrowly missed a birdie.

Then at the par-3 ninth, Woods hit three perfect shots to the par-5, hitting his wedge approach to 9 feet. That set up the birdie he needed.

"It felt good," Woods said, "to have to hit the shots on 8 ... and then on 9 knowing that I had to make 4 to move on, at least assure myself to move on. It felt good.

"I feel like I'm playing well enough to get myself up there. I just need one good round and narrow up that gap between myself and the lead, and I feel like I can do that."

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